Super League chief Robert Elstone on future of Thursday night fixtures... and late changes for TV

Robert Elstone. Picture: SWpix
Robert Elstone. Picture: SWpix

Super League chief executive Robert Elstone believes late-fixture switches to accommodate Sky Sports may be avoided next year.

Wigan's most recent match, against Castleford, was brought forward a day to Thursday night - with less than a week's notice, which Elstone branded not "good enough".

Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan later revealed the decision cost his club around £50,000.

Sky Sports were entitled to pick the game at short notice as part of the current broadcast deal which sees them pay Super League around £40m a year, of which clubs receive £2m. And this year, without the Super-8s structure, more televised games - including Thursday night slots - were mapped out with longer notice.

But Elstone says talks are taking place with the broadcasters to limit disruption.

"In terms of late changes, it's dialogue we're having with Sky," he said. "I think what we've realised for 2020, we need to be scheduling the final round for the same time so there isn't one game subject to a late change at four or five days' notice, which I don't think is good enough.

"We need to keep working with Sky to make sure the disruption to fans is as little as possible."

But he suggested Thursday night games were here to stay.

"Thursday nights continue to be an issue but Thursday nights work for Sky, and the reality is they're our most important partner," he told a media-briefing at Old Trafford.

"If we're delivering for them on Thursday, if fans like to watch Thursday night rugby in front of TV sets or in the pub, then I think we need to accept we need to be delivering for Sky. We need to be positive about Thursdays.

"That's not me in any way dismissing it and the challenge of travelling on a Thursday night (for away fans)."